Not much went right for the Pelicans during a 6-0 loss to the Frederick Keys Friday evening – and that includes the weather – but a road sweep of Lynchburg was enough to ensure wins and losses won't mean much over the remainder of the season's first half.
After Salem's loss to Frederick on Thursday, the Pelicans (40-19) officially clinched the first half title for the Southern Division in the Carolina League, guaranteeing them a spot in the playoffs at the end of the year.
If these games are all but meaningless for anything other than statistics, records and pride, no one told that to Joe Mikulik. The Pelicans manager was ejected in the third inning for arguing the strike zone in the game that was delayed an hour by rain at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark.
The fiery manager, who has a few famous YouTube clips for his tirades on umpires during his time as the manager for the Asheville Tourists, got his money's worth before leaving the field. He got in the face of home plate umpire Ben Levin before covering home plate in dirt.
He gave the second base umpire a piece of his mind on the way out, but if his goal was to try to settle down starter Victor Payano (L, 3-3), the message wasn't received. The starter allowed two runs in the first, then walked the bases loaded in the second before turning a double play to get out of the inning unscathed. He wasn't as fortunate in the third, when two hit batters and a single turned into two runs after a Lucas Herbst single to right field. Payano threw a clean fourth, but his night was over after Michael Burgess hit a two-run home run over the left field wall – the left fielder went 4-for-5, finishing just a double shy of the cycle.
On the other side, Keys pitcher Mark Blackmar (W, 4-1) stifled the Pelicans' offense all night long. The righty finished 6 2/3 scoreless innings with four strikeouts, no walks and just five hits allowed.
Jose Monegro pitched three scoreless innings for the Pelicans, striking out four, and did not allow a run. The right hander has not allowed a run in 8 1/3 innings with the Pelicans. Cody Ege finished out the final two innings and did not allow a run.
Matt Hobgood threw the final 2 1/3 innings for Frederick (26-33) and did not allow a run.
After the loss, the Pelicans lead the Salem Red Sox by 11.5 games with just nine to play, but don't expect the team to phone it in. The group, which features eight All-Star selections, hasn't lost a series since late April, and hasn't lost back-to-back games since May 5. This year's Pelicans squad also has a shot to overtake the franchise record for wins in the first half (45 in 2008). If they do break that mark, it will have to be done with two fewer opportunities. Due to rainouts, their first half will be just 68 games rather than the scheduled 70.
The Pelicans look to bounce back on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. as Luis Parra toes the rubber against Frederick's Branden Kline.
Notes | The shutout was the first for the Pelicans since April 6, when they were beaten by Salem in a season-opening sweep. They were held scoreless twice in that series. ... Pelicans third baseman Joey Gallo (0-for-4, two strikeouts) failed to reach base in a game for just the fourth time this season.